New weekly jobless claims rose from a pandemic-era low last week, pointing to sustained improvements in the labor market's recovery.
The Labor Department released its weekly jobless claims report on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. ET. Here were the main metrics from the print, compared to consensus estimates compiled by Bloomberg:
Initial unemployment claims, week ended September 11: 332,000 vs. 322,000 expected and a revised 312,000 during prior week
Continuing claims, week ended September 4: 2.665 million vs. 2.740 million expected and 2.783 million during prior week
Initial jobless claims had reached their lowest level since March 2020 at the start of September, as the pace of those newly unemployed edged closer to pre-pandemic standards. New jobless claims had come in at a rate of around 220,000 per month throughout 2019.
The four-week moving average for weekly new claims has also moved to the lowest level in 18 months, coming in at about 335,750 as of last week. This metric helps smooth out some of the volatility in the weekly figures, and has been on a clear downward path throughout the year. The continued drop in new claims has also underscored the fact that labor shortages and difficulties in hiring have been the bigger drag on the labor market in recent months, rather than firings and separations.
The number of individuals still unemployed and claiming benefits over a longer period of time has also come down alongside the drop in new filers. As of Aug. 28, the total number of claimants across state and federal programs was just over 12.1 million, marking an increase of nearly 180,000 from the prior week. However, the overall trend in total claimants has been on the decline, and during the same week last year, total claimants were at more than 30.3 million.
And these recent total claimants sums understate the real-time drop in total claimants, given the data is reported on a delay of several weeks. As of Sept. 6, federal pandemic-era unemployment benefits previously authorized by Congress expired across all states.
This included programs like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which provided benefits for gig workers and contractors who did not qualify for regular state programs, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which offered extended benefits to those that exhausted regular state insurance. A total of 8.9 million Americans were claiming benefits between these two programs as of mid-August, comprising the clear majority of total claimants at that point.
While some economists and policymakers have suggested the end of enhanced federal unemployment benefits might catalyze a broader return to work, others have been more skeptical, considering the ongoing concerns around the coronavirus.
"Unfortunately Delta appears to have left workers uncomfortable returning to the workforce," Bank of America economist Michelle Meyer wrote in a note on Wednesday. "All eyes are on whether the broader expiration of UI [unemployment insurance] benefits will prompt greater labor participation in the coming weeks."
Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck